Every camper should pack a first aid kit when heading out into the wilderness. Anything could happen out there, even in a relatively safe area. Some packing items are obvious, but you may not even think of little things that could save your life in major emergencies. Be properly prepared and follow this guide when choosing a first aid kit and any additional supplies.
Here’s what we will cover to get you out in the wild safely.
- First aid packing list
- When are first aid kits nessesary
- Where to buy first aid kits
- Camping first aid safety tips
- Related articles
First Aid Kit Packing List
- Adhesive bandages are the most basic item first aid kits come with, and they are very important. Bandages help contain bleeding, close a wound as much as possible, and keep bacteria and debris from getting into the wound and causing an infection.
- Butterfly bandages are a kind of adhesive bandage, but they are made specifically for closing wounds. They come in handy, especially with deeper cuts and gashes.
- Gauze pads do not stick to a wound like adhesive bandages do; they are made to clean a wound and stop excessive bleeding.
- Medical tape is used to secure gauze pads into place. This will protect the wound from bacteria if it is too large for regular bandages. The gauze pads will also continue to absorb and stymie the flow of blood until you can dress the injury properly.
- Hand sanitizer sterilizes your hands while you work on someone’s injuries so no bacteria can enter their wounds while you patch them up. (Don’t use it directly on someone’s injury, though. You have other supplies for that.)
- Gloves are also a useful barrier between yourself and the person you are tending to. This protects your own hands and their body as well. Just be sure that if you are allergic to latex, you pay attention to the kind of gloves you are getting. Many are made with that material.
- Antiseptic wipes and ointments clean wounds and keep them from letting in germs. Alcohol wipes are the most common supplies used for this purpose.
- Antibiotic ointment will treat an infection before it becomes dangerous. If infected injuries are left without attention, they can become fatal. Even in nonlethal cases, one might have to have their limb amputated because the infection has spread too much. That being said, this ointment is literally a lifesaver.
- Hydrogen peroxide cleans any existing germs from the site of an injury as well as other debris. This lowers the chance of infection and makes the extent of the injuries more highly visible.
- Saline or contact solution is good to have in case any foreign objects or liquids make it into someone’s eyes. This rinses them out safely.
- Pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medications such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen will bring down fevers and give the injured person relief from the pain of their injuries.
- Antihistamines prevent symptoms of a mild allergic reaction from bothering the sufferer. The common medicines for this would be Claritin and Benadryl. Keep in mind that some antihistamines make you drowsy. Don’t plan to go hiking if you take them.
- Calamine lotion is useful for those who are suffering from a brush with poison ivy or itchy bug bites. While this item is not medically necessary, it’s good to have on hand just in case.
- Sunburn relief spray or aloe vera gel serves the same purpose that calamine lotion does, but for sunburns or other mild burns. They provide temporary relief from the pain until the burns heal. They do not work for major burns, though. You will need to see a doctor immediately if the injuries are severe.
- Super glue was used by doctors in decades past to close wounds. If necessary, you can do this as long as you are careful not to pour too much on the wound. Only use this if you absolutely have to, as it can be tricky to do effectively.
- Tweezers will remove any small object like a splinter, insect stinger, or thorn from underneath the skin. Getting the object out of your body is important if you want to avoid the chances of your wound getting worse.
- Scissors and knives can help anyone who gets caught in a sticky situation. If, for instance, someone’s arm or finger is wrapped too tightly in a bandage or string, cutting it off will restore the circulation that was cut off to that limb.
- Thermal blankets come in handy for several different reasons. Exposure to cold environments can become dangerous if you are not wearing proper clothing. This blanket will potentially save you from hypothermia. Paramedics also often give these to people who are in shock or comfort and to ensure that their body temperature will not lower.
- Snakebite kits would be good to have if you are camping in areas known to be home to venomous species of these creatures. Not everyone needs one, but you should go the extra mile if you think it’s necessary.
- If you take prescription medicines, it is of the utmost importance that you bring them in your first aid kit. Going without them will severely affect you, and people with certain conditions could die if they go too long without theirs.
- If anyone in your group has a severe allergy, always keep an Epi-pen This will lessen the effects of their allergic reaction so they will be relatively safe before you take them to a doctor.
- A cold pack is always a relief for anyone with aches and pains. Take it from your kit and put it in your cooler for a while. When the occasion arises, you will have it ready to go.
- An oral thermometer will tell you a lot about one’s condition. The base temperature of most adults is 98.6 degrees (Fahrenheit.) One or two degrees higher than that should be treated with fever reducing pills, but it does not usually constitute going to the hospital. Be advised that if a fever reaches over 100 degrees F, you should seek medical attention. Fevers around 103 or higher will sometimes become fatal if you do not immediately get help.
- Anti-diarrhea medicine like Immodium is highly useful and could save you in a situation where you can’t easily leave your camp. Because of modern medicine, we do not often think about how dangerous this condition can be. However, constant diarrhea can dehydrate you severely. Stop it before it stops you.
- A list of emergency contact numbers and everyone’s known allergies/medications should be kept in your first aid kit at all times. When you are in shock, you may not remember them. If you are the one to go down and someone needs to call for help, they have to have the information necessary to save your life.
- Nausea medication is handy to have. Nausea is not life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable. You lose all motivation, and you just want to crawl back into your tent all day. What fun would that be? Dramamine is a common anti-nausea medication. It does tend to make one drowsy, though, so consider alternatives if you need to.
We have covered a wide range of supplies that should get you through most emergency situations. Now you need to know when you will need them, where to get them, and how to practice safety while using them.
When are First Aid Kits Necessary?
Even if you are staying at an established campsite and you feel that the danger to yourself and others is fairly low, you need to bring a first aid kit for several reasons. So when are first aid kits necessary?
- When in nature, we tend to trip over roots or rocks and get scrapes and cuts. Even the most minor of these require medical attention. If nothing else, you at least need to clean and dress the wound. That is when you need bandages, hydrogen peroxide, and antiseptic ointment.
- Bugs live outside; that’s just a simple fact. These bugs, mosquitos especially, will bite you and it will either hurt or itch. Bees and wasps may sting you if provoked. You can use calamine lotion to lessen the effects of the stings and bites you get. Tweezers from your kit will remove any stingers left behind.
- One of the most major situations you will need your first aid kit for is in the event of an allergic reaction. Whether minor or severe, you or a group member will be eternally grateful for antihistamines or an Epi-pen.
- Exposing yourself to the elements is fun until it becomes dangerous. Cold temperatures and high winds may have one of your group bordering on hypothermic. While this is a very specific scenario, it is why you should pack a thermal blanket.
- Sunburns are painful, and many of the items in your kit will help combat the misery associated with it. When you take a nap in the sun and forget your sunscreen, you will be thanking yourself for planning ahead.
- The most obvious answer to why and when you will need a first aid kit is because people get sick. Several different things cause illness, and you need to come prepared for that. That is what the fever reducing pills are for (Tylenol is especially useful for this.)
- Your eyes are in more danger than you would initially think. Bugs, dirt, sand, and pieces of leaves may fly into your eyes, and the most important thing you should do is immediately rinse out the invading object before you scratch your peepers and have to go home because you are effectively blind. This may seem outlandish, but it happens more often than you would believe.
- When you get a splinter, you feel mild annoyance and discomfort. While it may seem harmless but slightly painful, it can turn into something more if you do not remove it. You don’t want to get an infection, and that is why you need tweezers, bandages, and ointment.
Where to Buy a First Aid Kit
First aid kits are useful for any scenario, so you can find one pretty easily. There are different models you can buy according to what you need. Anything that does not come with the kit, you can buy and stuff in there.
- Amazon has a wide array of kits to choose from. This one is $12 and has a stellar rating with over 3,000 reviews! One complaint people have, though, is that the kit is made up almost entirely of bandages. You would need to do a lot of rearranging and extra packing. This kit has a wider variety of supplies, and it is still highly rated.
- Your standard drug stores (Walgreens, CVS, etc.) will have basic first aid kits for sale. They will also have supplies that do not come with the kit, which makes your life easier. The less shopping you have to do, the better!
- Major retailers like WalMart and Target carry first aid kits and accessories you will need. This is even more convenient because you can buy all of your other camping supplies there, too.
- The American Red Cross has its own site in which you can buy these emergency kits. This organization has been around for a long time, and they know what they are talking about when they tell you what you’ll need. They are more likely to have more comprehensive kits than other places. Check them out here.
First Aid Safety Tips
First aid kits are useless if you use the supplies within improperly. Keep these tips in mind when you go adventuring; after all, you could be the one saving a life one day.
- When someone is bleeding steadily, apply gentle pressure to the wound. It should stop within 20-30 minutes. If it does not, seek additional medical help.
- When treating burns, do not place an ice pack on top. Instead, you should run cool water (but not ice cold) over the affected areas.
- If you find yourself feeling lethargic or faint after being in the sun or heat for a long time, you may be suffering the effects of heat exhaustion. If you suspect you have this, get out of the heat. Lie down with your feet elevated, drink plenty of water, and apply cool packs or cloths to your forehead or neck.
- In major emergencies when CPR is needed, use this guide and learn the safest methods for doing it. Otherwise, you could break a person’s ribs and hurt them further. Have everyone you are going with learn it, too. It could be you who needs it. If you are able, take CPR classes before going. Reading about it and practicing it are two entirely different things; doing both gives you more preparation.
- When a bee stings, remove the stinger. If the person stung is allergic to the venom, you will need to use the Epi-pen and seek help. After removing the stinger, apply a cold compress and have the person take antihistamines.
- Always be sure that you and your group know what you all are allergic to before going camping. Some people are allergic to simple medicines like antihistamines (Benadryl in particular.) Others are allergic to latex, and that affects what kind of gloves you can use in your first aid kit.
- Check the supplies in your kit regularly. Replenish anything that is low in quantity, throw out things that have expired, and be sure that everything is sterile and not contaminated with dirt or other debris.
- Keep your kit with you when you are camping. Emergencies do not always conveniently happen at base camp. Things happen while you swim, hike, spelunk, etc. Keep it in a backpack or waterproof case; this could potentially mean the difference between life and death.
- Bring water with you wherever you take your first aid kit. Many of the scenarios laid out for you involve water in some way. It can be used to wash down pills, to prevent heat exhaustion or dehydration from diarrhea, and to soothe a sunburn. Just be sure not to drink after someone else or apply water to a wound that someone has had a sip from. This spreads more germs and disease, and that is the last thing you want.
- Read instruction manuals that come with your kit ahead of time. This way, you can be 100% sure that you are doing everything you should be and providing proper care to an injured person. You do not have time to read when someone is bleeding or sick.
This article is a great starting point for being informed about first aid kits and how to use them. However, doing some extra reading is never a bad thing as long as you are using information from trusted sources. Here are a few things I would recommend going over:
Get that reading out of the way, pack your things, and get ready to go! As long as you stay educated on proper first aid care and keep your supplies replenished and ready to go, you should encounter no problems unless the injuries are severe. You have done your homework; now you can relax! Stay calm, act quickly, and remember — safety first.
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